It gave me pleasure to watch the quickness of all their motions, the politeness with which they received so many complicated orders, and the noiseless celerity with which they were performed. This cost them no effort, but seemed natural to them. There were a dozen of these blacks in attendance, all of them young, and some, in spite of their dark colouring, handsome, intelligent looking men.
The master of the hotel was eloquent in their praise, and said that they far surpassed the whites in the neat and elegant manner in which they laid out a table,—that he scarcely knew what he would do without them.
I found myself guilty of violating Lord Chesterfield's rules of politeness, while watching a group of eaters who sat opposite to me at table. The celerity with which they despatched their dinner, and yet contrived to taste of everything contained in the bill of fare, was really wonderful. To them it was a serious matter of business; they never lifted their eyes from their plates, or spoke a word beyond ordering fresh supplies, during feeding time.
One long-ringletted lady in particular attracted my notice, for she did more justice to the creature comforts than all the rest. The last course, including the dessert, was served at table, and she helped herself to such quantities of pudding, pie, preserves, custard, ice, and fruit, that such a medley of rich things I never before saw heaped upon one plate. Some of these articles she never tasted; but she seemed determined to secure to herself a portion of all, and to get as much as she could for her money.
I wish nature had not given me such a quick perception of the ridiculous—such a perverse inclination to laugh in the wrong place; for though one cannot help deriving from it a wicked enjoyment, it is a very troublesome gift, and very difficult to conceal. So I turned my face resolutely from contemplating the doings of the long-ringletted lady, and entered into conversation with an old gentleman from the States—a genuine Yankee, whom I found a very agreeable and intelligent companion, willing to exchange, with manly, independent courtesy, the treasures of his own mind with another; and I listened to his account of American schools and public institutions with great interest. His party consisted of a young and very delicate looking lady, and a smart active little boy of five years of age. These I concluded were his daughter and grandson, from the striking likeness that existed between the child and the old man. The lady, he said, was in bad health—the boy was hearty and wide-awake.
After dinner the company separated; some to visit objects of interest in the neighbourhood, others to the saloon and the balcony. I preferred a seat in the latter; and ensconcing myself in the depths of a large comfortable rocking chair, which was placed fronting the Falls, I gave up my whole heart and soul to the contemplation of their glorious beauty.
I was roused from a state almost bordering on idolatry by a lady remarking to another, who was standing beside her, "that she considered the Falls a great humbug; that there was more fuss made about them than they deserved; that she was satisfied with having seen them once; and that she never wished to see them again."
I was not the least surprised, on turning my head, to behold in the speaker the long-ringletted lady.
A gentleman to whom I told these remarks laughed heartily.—"That reminds me of a miller's wife who came from Black Rock, near Buffalo, last summer, to see the Falls. After standing here, and looking at them for some minutes, she drawled through her nose—'Well, I declare, is that all? And have I come eighteen miles to look at you? I might ha' spared myself the expense and trouble; my husband's mill-dam is as good a sight,—only it's not just as high.'"
This lady would certainly have echoed the sublime sentiment expressed by our friend the poet,—
"Oh, what a glorious place for washing sheep Niagara would be!"
In the evening my husband hired a cab, and we drove to see the Upper Suspension Bridge. The road our driver took was very narrow, and close to the edge of the frightful precipice that forms at this place the bank of the river, which runs more than two hundred feet below.
The cabman, we soon discovered, was not a member of the temperance society. He was very much intoxicated; and, like Jehu the son of Nimshi, he drove furiously. I felt very timid and nervous. Sickness makes us sad cowards, and what the mind enjoys in health, becomes an object of fear when it is enfeebled and unstrung by bodily weakness.
My dear husband guessed my feelings, and placed himself in such a manner as to hide from my sight the danger to which we were exposed by our careless driver. In spite of the many picturesque beauties in our road, I felt greatly relieved when we drove up to the bridge, and our short journey was accomplished.
The Suspension Bridge on which we now stood—surveying from its dizzy height, two hundred and thirty feet above the water, the stream below—seems to demand from us a greater amount of interest than the one at Queenstone, from the fact of its having been the first experiment of the kind ever made in this country,—a grand and successful effort of mechanical genius over obstacles that appeared insurmountable.
The river is two hundred feet wider here than at Queenstone, and the bridge is of much larger dimensions. The height of the stone tower that supports it on the American side is sixty-eight feet, and of the wooden tower on the Canadian shore fifty feet. The number of cables for the bridge is sixteen; of strands in each cable, six hundred; of strands in the ferry-cable, thirty-seven, the diameter of which is seven-eighths of an inch. The ultimate tension is six thousand five hundred tons, and the capacity of the bridge five hundred. A passage across is thrillingly exciting.
The depth of the river below the bridge is two hundred and fifty feet, and the water partakes more largely of that singular deep green at this spot than I had remarked elsewhere. The American stage crossed the bridge as we were leaving it, and the horses seemed to feel the same mysterious dread which I have before described. A great number of strong wooden posts that support the towers take greatly from the elegance of this bridge; but I am told that these will shortly be removed, and their place supplied by a stone tower and buttresses. We returned by another and less dangerous route to the Clifton House, just in time to witness a glorious autumnal sunset.
The west was a flood of molten gold, fretted with crimson clouds; the great Horse-shoe Fall caught every tint of the glowing heavens, and looked like a vast sheet of flame, the mist rising from it like a wreath of red and violet-coloured smoke. This gorgeous sight, contrasted by the dark pine woods and frowning cliffs which were thrown into deep shade, presented a spectacle of such surpassing beauty and grandeur, that it could only be appreciated by those who witnessed it. Any attempt to describe it must prove a failure. I stood chained to the spot, mute with admiration, till the sun set behind the trees, and the last rays of light faded from the horizon; and still the thought uppermost in my mind was—who could feel disappointed at a scene like this? Can the wide world supply such another?
The removal of all the ugly mills along its shores would improve it, perhaps, and add the one charm it wants, by being hemmed in by tasteless buildings,—the sublimity of solitude.
Oh, for one hour alone with Nature, and her great master-piece Niagara! What solemn converse would the soul hold with its Creator at such a shrine,—and the busy hum of practical life would not mar with its jarring discord, this grand "thunder of the waters!" Realities are unmanageable things in some hands, and the Americans are gravely contemplating making their sublime Fall into a motive power for turning machinery.
Ye gods! what next will the love of gain suggest to these gold-worshippers? The whole earth should enter into a protest against such an act of sacrilege—such a shameless desecration of one of the noblest works of God.
Niagara belongs to no particular nation or people. It is an inheritance bequeathed by the great Author to all mankind,—an altar raised by his own almighty hand, at which all true worshippers must bow the knee in solemn adoration. I trust that these free glad waters will assert their own rights, and dash into mist and spray any attempt made to infringe their glorious liberty.
But the bell is ringing for tea, and I must smother my indignation with the reflection, that "sufficient for the day is the evil thereof."
A Freak Of Fancy.
"I had a dream of ocean, In stern and stormy pride; With terrible commotion, Dark, thundering, came the tide. High on the groaning shore Upsprang the wreathed spray; Tremendous was the roar Of the angry, echoing bay.
"Old Neptune's snowy coursers Unbridled trode the main, And o'er the foaming waters Plunged on in mad disdain: The furious surges boiling, Roll mountains in their path; Beneath their white hoofs coiling, They spurn them in their wrath.
"The moon at full was streaming Through rack and thunder-cloud, Like the last pale taper gleaming On coffin, pall, and shroud. The winds were fiercely wreaking Their vengeance on the wave, A hoarse dirge wildly shrieking O'er each uncoffin'd grave.
"I started from my pillow— The moon was riding high, The wind scarce heav'd a billow Beneath that cloudless sky. I look'd from earth to heaven, And bless'd the tranquil beam; My trembling heart had striven With the tempest of a dream."
"Adown Niagara's giant steep, The foaming breakers crowding leap, With wild tumultuous roar; The mighty din ascends on high, In deafening thunder to the sky, And shakes the rocky shore." S.M.
The lady with the ringlets was absent with her party from the tea-table; I was not sorry to learn that she was gone. I had conceived a prejudice against her from the remark I heard her make about the Falls. Her gustativeness predominated so largely over her ideality, that she reminded me of a young lady who, after describing to me a supper of which by her own account she had largely partaken, said, with a candour almost shocking in its simplicity—
"To tell you the plain truth, my dear Mrs. M—-, my art (she was English, and cockney, and dreadfully mangled the letter h whenever it stumbled into a speech) is in my stomach."
The cup of excellent tea was most refreshing after the fatigues of the day; and, while enjoying it, I got into an agreeable chat with several pleasant people, but we were all strangers even in name to each other.
The night was misty and intensely dark, without moon or stars. How I longed for one glimpse of the former, to shed if only a wandering gleam upon the Falls! The awful music of their continuous roar filled the heavens, and jarred the windows of the building with the tremulous motion we feel on board a steam-boat. And then I amused myself with picturing them, during one of our desolating thunderstorms, leaping into existence out of the dense darkness, when revealed by the broad red flashes of lightning; and I wished that my limited means would allow me to remain long enough in their vicinity, to see them under every change of season and weather. But it was not to be; and after peering long and anxiously into the dark night, I retreated to an unoccupied sofa in a distant part of the saloon, to watch and listen to all that was passing around me.
Two young American ladies, not of a highly educated class, were engaged in a lively conversation with two dashing English officers, who, for their own amusement, were practising upon their credulity, and flattering their national prejudices with the most depreciating remarks on England and the English people.
"I am English," cried number one; "but I am no great admirer of her people and institutions. The Americans beat them hollow."
"All the world think so but themselves," said the younger lady; "they are such a vain, arrogant set!"
"Decidedly so. The men are bad enough, but the women,—I dare say you have heard them called handsome?"
"Ah, yes," in a very lively tone; "but I never believed it. I never in my life saw a pretty English woman among all that I have seen in New York. To my thinking, they are a sad set of frights. Stiff, formal, and repulsive, they dress in shocking bad taste, and consider themselves and their uncouth fashions as the standards of perfection."
"My dear madam, you are right. They are odious creatures. The beauty for which they were once renowned has vanished with the last generation. Our modern English girls are decided barbarians. It is impossible to meet with a pretty English woman now-a-days. I have made a vow to cut them altogether; and if ever I commit such a foolish thing as matrimony, to take to myself an American wife."
"Are you in earnest?" with a very fascinating smile, and flashing upon him her fine dark eyes.
"Quite so. But, now, you must not take me for a rich English Coelebs in search of a wife. I am an unfortunate scapegrace, have run out all my means, and am not worth a York shilling to jingle on a tombstone. I was obliged to borrow money of my landlord—he's a capital fellow—to pay my washerwoman's bill this morning. So don't fall in love with me. I assure you, on my honour, it would be a bad spec."
"Don't be alarmed," returned the dark-eyed girl, evidently much pleased with her odd companion. "Are you very young?"
"I was never young. My mother told me that I had cut my wisdom-teeth when I was born. I was wide awake, too, like your clever people, and have kept my eyes open ever since.
"You have seen a great deal of the world?"
"Yes, too much of it; but 'tis a tolerable world to live in after all."
"Were you ever in the United States?"
"Only crossed from the other side a few days ago. Did you not notice the arrival of Mr. P—- among the list of distinguished foreigners that honoured your great city with their presence?"
"And what struck you most when you got there?"
"Oh, the beauty and elegance of the women, of course."
"You flatter us."
"Fact, upon honour," with a quizzical application of his hand to his heart.
"What did you admire in them?"
"Their straight up and down figures. They have no vulgar redundancies—no red cheeks and pug noses; and then their voices are so sweet and harmonious, their pronunciation so correct, so every way superior to the boisterous, hearty frankness of our British girls!"
"English women have very bad noses—I have remarked that; and they are so horribly fat, and they laugh so loud, and talk in such a high key! My! I often wondered where they learned their manners."
"Oh! 'tis all natural to them—it comes to them without teaching."
"I have been told that London is a shocking place."
"Dreadful; and the climate is disgusting. It rains there every day, and fogs are so prevalent that during the winter months, they burn candles all day to see to eat. As to the sun, he never comes out but once or twice during the summer, just to let us know that he has not been struck out of creation. And the streets, my dear young lady, are so filthy that the women have to wear pattens in their carriages."
"You don't say?"
"Just to keep their petticoats out of the mud, which is so deep that it penetrates through the bottom of the carriages."
"I never will go to England, I declare."
"You will be better appreciated in your free and glorious country. Slavery thrives there, and you make slaves of us poor men."
"Now, do stop there, and have done with your blarney."
"Blarney! I'm not Irish. Englishmen always speak the truth when talking to the ladies."
Here he paused, quite out of breath, and his companion in mischief commenced with the other lady.
"Who is that tall, stout, handsome man, with the fat lady on his arm, who has just entered the room?"
"That's an American from the south; he's worth his weight in gold, and that fleshy woman's his wife. My! is he not handsome! and he's so clever—one of our greatest senators."
"If size makes a man great, and he has the distinguished honour of being one of your senators, he must be a great—a very great man.
"He's a splendid orator; you should hear him speak."
"He has kept his mouth shut all day; and when he does open it, it is only to speak in French to his wife. My curiosity is excited; it would be quite a treat to hear him talk on any subject."
"When he speaks, it's always to the purpose. But there's no one here who is able to appreciate talents like his."
"He's an American aristocrat."
"We have no aristocrats with us. He's a great slave-owner, and immensely rich."
"Very substantial claims to distinction, I must confess. You are wiser in these matters than we are. What do you think of Canada?"
"I don't know; it's very well for a young place. I only came here with sister last night; we are on our way to Quebec."
"To visit friends?"
"We have no friends in Canada. We want to see Lord Elgin."
"Yes. We have seen a great many curious things, but we never saw an English lord."
"And you are going to Quebec for no other purpose than to look at Lord Elgin? His lordship should feel himself highly flattered. What sort of an animal do you suppose him to be?"
"A man, of course; but I assure you that the Boston ladies thought a great deal of him. Sister and I have plenty of time and money at our disposal, and we wanted to see if their opinion was correct."
"Well, I hope you may be gratified, and agree with the Boston ladies that he is a very clever man."
"Is he handsome?"
"He has an English nose."
"A decided Anglo-Saxon face."
"I'm sure I shan't admire him."
"But I'll not anticipate. A man may be a fine looking fellow in spite of his nose. But what do you think of the Falls?"
"Well, I have not quite made up my mind about them. I should like to ride down to the edge of the river to look at them from below."
"I will order a carriage to-morrow morning, and drive you down."
"Thank you; I can do that for myself, if I have a mind to. I should like to ride down on horseback."
"The path is too steep; no one ventures down that terrible road on horseback."
"But I'm a capital rider."
"No matter; they use cows for that purpose here."
"They are very safe, sure-footed animals. All the ladies ride down to the Falls on cows."
"Are they fools?"
"Wise women. Did not you see that fine drove of cows pass the hotel at sunset?"
"I did. I thought they were driven into the yard to be milked."
"Why, yes; but those cows are making Mr. —-'s fortune. They serve a double purpose, providing delicious butter and cream for his customers, and acting as horses for the ladies. I will pick out the most docile among them for your excursion to-morrow morning, and see it bridled and saddled myself."
This was too much for the gravity of any one. My son-in-law ran out of the room, and I laughed aloud. The poor girls began to find out that they were sold, and retreated into the balcony. An hour afterwards, as I was pacing through the long gallery that led to our sleeping apartment, one of the many doors on either side softly opened, and the youngest of these bright-eyed damsels stole out.
"I want to ask you a question," she said, laying her very white hand confidingly on my arm; "were those Englishmen quizzing my sister and me?"
"Need you ask that question?" said I, not a little amused at her simplicity.
"I never suspected it till I saw your son laughing to himself, and then I guessed something was wrong. It was a great shame of those rude fellows to amuse themselves at our expense; but your son is quite a different person—so handsome and gentlemanly. We admire him so much. Is he married?"
"His wife is my daughter."
I can't tell why my answer struck the fair inquirer dumb; she drew back suddenly into her chamber, and closed the door without bidding me good night, and that was the last time I saw or heard of her and her companion.
"A summer spent at the Clifton House would elicit more extraordinary traits of character than could be gathered from the chit-chat of a dozen novels," thought I, as I paced on to No. 50, the last room on the long tier.
I was up by daybreak the next morning to see the Falls by sunrise, and was amply repaid for leaving my warm bed, and encountering the bright bracing morning air, by two hours' enjoyment of solemn converse alone with God and Niagara. The sun had not yet lifted his majestic head above the pine forest, or chased with his beams the dark shadows of night that rested within the curved sides of the great Horse-shoe. The waters looked black as they rolled in vast smooth masses downward, till, meeting the projecting rocks, they were tossed high into the air in clouds of dazzling foam—so pure, so stainlessly white, when contrasted with the darkness, that they looked as if belonging to heaven rather than to earth. Anon, that dancing feathery tumult of foam catches a rosy gleam from the coming day. A long stream of sunlight touches the centre of the mighty arch, and transforms the black waters into a mass of smooth transparent emerald green, and the spray flashes with myriads of rubies and diamonds; while the American Fall still rolls and thunders on in cold pure whiteness, Goat Island and its crests of dark pines shrouding it in a robe of gloom. The voice of the waters rising amidst the silence that reigns at that lovely calm hour, sounds sonorous and grand. Be still, O my soul! earth is pouring to her Creator her morning anthem of solemn praise!
Earth! how beautiful thou art! When will men be worthy of the paradise in which they are placed? Did our first father, amidst the fresh young beauty of his Eden, ever gaze upon a spectacle more worthy of his admiration than this? We will except those moments when he held converse with God amid the cool shades of that delicious garden.
"That's a sublime sight!" said a voice near me.
I turned, and found the old American gentleman at my side.
"I can see a change in the appearance of these Falls," he continued, "since I visited them some forty years ago. Time changes everything; I feel that I am changed since then. I was young and active, and clambered about these rugged banks with the careless hardihood of a boy who pants for excitement and adventure, and how I enjoyed my visit to this place! A change has taken place—I can scarcely describe in what respect; but it looks to me very different to what it did then."
"Perhaps," I suggested, "the fall of that large portion of the table-rock has made the alteration you describe."
"You have just hit it," he said; "I forgot the circumstance. The Horse-shoe is not so perfect as it was."
"Could these Falls ever have receded from Queenstone?" said I.
He turned to me with a quick smile—"If they have, my dear Madam, the world is much older by thousands of ages than we give it credit for; but—" continued he, gazing at the mighty object in dispute, "it is possible that these Falls are of more recent date than the creation of the world. An earthquake may have rent the deep chasm that forms the bed of that river, and in a few seconds of time the same cause might break down that mighty barrier, and drain the upper lakes, by converting a large part of your fine province into another inland sea. But this is all theory. Fancy, you know, is free, and I often amuse myself by speculating on these things."
"Your daughter, I hope, is not ill," I said; "I did not see her at tea last night with her little son."
Instead of his usual shrewd smile, the old man laughed heartily. "So you take that young lady for my daughter!"
"Is she not? The child, however, must be your grandson, for he is the picture of you."
"I flatter myself that he is. That young lady is my wife—that little boy my son. Isn't he a fine clever little chap?" and his keen grey eye brightened at the growing promise of his boy. "I have another younger than him."
"Heavens!" thought I, "what a mistake I have made! How M—- will laugh at me, and how delighted this old man seems with my confusion!" I am always making these odd blunders. Not long ago I mistook a very old-looking young man for his father, and congratulated him on his daughter's marriage; and asked a young bride who was returning her calls, and who greatly resembled a married cousin who lived in the same town, how her baby was? And now I had taken a man's wife for his daughter his son for a grandson. But I comforted myself with the idea that the vast disparity between their ages was some excuse, and so slipped past one of the horns of that dilemma.
As soon as we had taken breakfast, we set off in company with the American and his little boy to pay a visit to Goat Island, and look at the Falls from the American side. The child fully realized his father's description. He was a charming, frank, graceful boy, full of life and intelligence, and enjoyed the excitement of crossing the river, and the beauties it revealed to us, with a keen appreciation of the scene, which would have been incomprehensible to some of the wonder-seekers we had met the day before. All nature contributed to heighten our enjoyment. The heavens were so blue and cloudless, the air so clear and transparent, the changing tints on the autumnal foliage so rich, the sun so bright and warm, that we seemed surrounded by an enchanted atmosphere, and the very consciousness of existence was delightful; but, with those descending floods of light towering above us, and filling the echoing shores with their sublime melody, we were doubly blessed!
When our little boat touched the American shore, the question arose as to which method would be the best to adopt in ascending the giddy height. A covered way leads to the top of the bank, which is more than two hundred feet in perpendicular height. Up this steep our ingenious neighbours have constructed on an inclined plane of boards a railway, on which two cars run in such a manner that the weight of the descending car draws up the other to the top of the bank. Both are secured by a strong cable. By the side of this railway, and under the same roof, 200 steps lead to the road above. I was too weak to attempt the formidable flight of steps; and though I felt rather cowardly while looking at the giddy ascent of the cars, there was no alternative between choosing one or the other, or remaining behind. The American and his little boy were already in the car, and I took my seat behind them. When we were half-way, the question rose in my mind—"What if the cable should give way, where should we land?" "You'll know that when the tail breaks," as the Highlander said when holding on to the wild boar; and I shut my eyes, determined not to disturb my mind or waken my fears by another glance below.
"Why do you shut your eyes?" said the American. "I thought the English were all brave."
"I never was a coward till after I came to North America," said I, laughing; and I felt that I ought to be as brave as a lion, and not injure the reputation of my glorious country by such childish fears.
When the car stopped, we parted company with the American and his brave little son. He had friends to visit in Manchester, and I saw them no more.
Our path lay through a pretty shady grove to the village. Groups of Indian women and children were reposing beneath the shade of the trees, working at their pretty wares, which they offered for sale as we passed by. Following the winding of the road, we crossed a rural bridge, from which we enjoyed a fine view of the glorious Rapids, and entered Goat Island.
This beautiful spot is still in forest, but the underbrush has been cleared away, and a path cut entirely round it. The trunks of these trees are entirely covered with the names and initials of persons who at different times have visited the spot, and they present the most curious appearance.
After a few minutes' walk through the wood, we reached the bank of the river, which here is not very high, and is covered with evergreen shrubs and wild flowers; and here the wide world of tumbling waters are flashing and foaming in the sunlight—leaping and racing round the rocky, pine-covered islands, that vainly oppose their frantic course. Oh, how I longed to stem their unstemmed tides; to land upon those magic islands which the foot of man or beast never trod, whose beauty and verdure are guarded by the stern hand of death! The Falls are more wonderful, but not more beautiful, than this sublime confusion and din of waters—
"Of glad rejoicing waters, Of living leaping waters."
Their eternal voice and motion might truly be termed the "joy of waves."
On the American Side, the view of the great cataracts is not so awful and overwhelming, but they are more beautiful in detail, and present so many exquisite pictures to the eye. They are more involved in mystery, as it were; and so much is left for the imagination to combine into every varied form of beauty. You look down into the profound abyss; you are wetted with that shower of silvery spray that rises higher than the tree tops, and which gives you in that soft rain an actual consciousness of its living presence.
I did not cross the bridge, which extends within a few yards of the great plunge, or climb to the top of the tower; for my strength had so entirely failed me, that it was with difficulty I could retrace my steps. I sat for about an hour beneath the shadow of the trees, feasting my soul with beauty; and with reluctance, that drew tears from my eyes, bade adieu to the enchanting spot—not for ever, I hope, for should God prolong my life, I shall try and visit the Falls again. Like every perfect work, the more frequently and closely they are examined, the more wonderful they must appear; the mind and eye can never weary of such an astonishing combination of sublimity and power.
We stopped at a pretty cottage at the edge of the wood to get a glass of water, and to buy some peaches. For these we had to pay treble the price at which they could be procured at Toronto; but they proved a delicious refreshment, the day was very warm, and I was parched with thirst. Had time permitted, I should have enjoyed greatly a ramble through the town; as it was, my brief acquaintance with the American shores left a very pleasing impression on my mind.
The little that I have seen of intelligent, well-educated Americans, has given me a very high opinion of the people. Britain may be proud of these noble scions from the parent tree, whose fame, like her own, is destined to fill the world. "The great daughter of a great mother," America claims renown for her lawful inheritance; and it is to be deeply regretted that any petty jealousy or party feeling should ever create a rivalry between countries so closely united by the ties of blood; whose origin, language, religion and genius are the same; whose industry, energy, and perseverance, derived from their British sires, have procured for them the lofty position they hold, and made them independent of the despots of earth.
The Land Of Our Birth.
"There is not a spot in this wide-peopled earth, So dear to the heart as the land of our birth; 'Tis the home of our childhood! the beautiful spot By mem'ry retain'd when all else is forgot. May the blessing of God Ever hallow the sod, And its valleys and hills by our children be trode!
"Can the language of strangers, in accents unknown, Send a thrill to the bosom like that of our own! The face may be fair, and the smile may be bland, But it breathes not the tones of our dear native land. There's no spot on earth Like the home of our birth, Where heroes keep guard o'er the altar and hearth.
"How sweet is the language that taught us to blend The dear names of father, of husband, and friend; That taught us to lisp on our mother's fond breast, The ballads she sang as she rock'd us to rest! May the blessing of God Ever hallow the sod, And its valleys and hills by our children be trode!
"May old England long lift her white crest o'er the wave, The birth-place of science, the home of the brave! In her cities may peace and prosperity dwell! May her daughters in beauty and virtue excel! May their beauty and worth Bless the land of their birth, While heroes keep guard o'er the altar and hearth!"
"Why dost thou fear to speak the honest truth? Speak boldly, fearlessly, what thou think'st right, And time shall justify thy words and thee!" S.M.
We left Niagara at noon. A very pleasant drive brought us to Queenstone, and we stepped on board the "Chief Justice" steamboat, that had just touched the wharf, and was on her return trip to Toronto.
Tired and ill, I was glad to lie down in one of the berths in the ladies' cabin to rest, and, if possible, to obtain a little sleep. This I soon found was out of the question. Two or three noisy, spoiled children kept up a constant din; and their grandmother, a very nice-looking old lady, who seemed nurse-general to them all, endeavoured in vain to keep them quiet. Their mother was reading a novel, and took it very easy; reclining on a comfortable sofa, she left her old mother all the fatigue of taking care of the children, and waiting upon herself.
This is by no means an uncommon trait of Canadian character. In families belonging more especially to the middle class, who have raised themselves from a lower to a higher grade, the mother, if left in poor circumstances, almost invariably holds a subordinate position in her wealthier son or daughter's family. She superintends the servants, and nurses the younger children; and her time is occupied by a number of minute domestic labours, that allow her very little rest in her old age.
I have seen the grandmother in a wealthy family ironing the fine linen, or broiling over the cook-stove, while her daughter held her place in the drawing-room. How differently in my own country are these things ordered! where the most tender attention is paid to the aged, all their wants studied, and their comfort regarded as a sacred thing.
Age in Canada is seldom honoured. You would imagine it almost a crime for any one to grow old—with such slighting, cold indifference are the aged treated by the young and strong. It is not unusual to hear a lad speak of his father, perhaps, in the prime of life, as the "old fellow," the "old boy," and to address a grey-haired man in this disrespectful and familiar manner. This may not be apparent to the natives themselves, but it never fails to strike every stranger that visits the colony.
To be a servant is a lot sufficiently hard—to have all your actions dictated to you by the will of another—to enjoy no rest or recreation, but such as is granted as a very great favour; but to be a humble dependent in old age on children, to whom all the best years of your life were devoted with all the energy of maternal love, must be sad indeed. But they submit with great apparent cheerfulness, and seem to think it necessary to work for the shelter of a child's roof, and the bread they eat.
The improved circumstances of families, whose parents, in the first settlement of the country, had to work very hard for their general maintenance, may be the cause of this inversion of moral duties, and the parents not being considered properly on an equality with their better dressed and better educated offspring; but from whatever cause it springs, the effect it produces on the mind of a stranger is very painful. It is difficult to feel much respect for any one who looks down upon father or mother as an inferior being, and, as such, considers them better qualified to perform the coarse drudgeries of life. Time, we hope, will remedy this evil, with many others of the same class.
There was a bride, too, on board—a very delicate looking young woman, who was returning from a tour in the States to her native village. She seemed very much to dread the ordeal she had yet to pass through—in sitting dressed up for a whole week to receive visitors. Nor did I in the least wonder at her repugnance to go through this trying piece of ceremonial, which is absolutely indispensable in Canada.
The Monday after the bride and bridegroom make their first appearance at church, every person in the same class prepares to pay them a visit of congratulation; and if the town is large, and the parties well known, the making of visits to the bride lasts to the end of the week.
The bride, who is often a young girl from sixteen to twenty years of age, is doomed for this period to sit upon a sofa or reclined in an easy chair, dressed in the most expensive manner, to receive her guests.
Well she knows that herself, her dress, the furniture of her room, even her cake and wine, will undergo the most minute scrutiny, and be the theme of conversation among all the gossips of the place for the next nine days. No wonder that she feels nervous, and that her manners are constrained, and that nothing looks easy or natural about her, from her neck-ribbon to her shoe-tie.
"Have you seen the bride yet? What do you think of her? How was she dressed? Is she tall, or short? Pretty, or plain? Stupid, or clever? Lively, or quiet?" are all questions certain to be asked, and answered according to the taste and judgment of the parties to whom they are put; besides those thousand little interludes which spring from envy, ill-nature, and all uncharitableness. The week following they, in courtesy, must return all these visits; and, oh, what a relief it must be when all this stiff complimentary nonsense is over, and they are once more at home to themselves and their own particular friends!
There is another custom, peculiar to Canada and the United States, which I cordially approve, and should be very much grieved for its discontinuance.
On New-Year's day all the gentlemen in the place call upon their friends, to wish them a happy new year, and to exchange friendly greetings with the ladies of the family, who are always in readiness to receive them, and make them a return for these marks of neighbourly regard, in the substantial form of rich cakes, fruit, wine, coffee, and tea. It is generally a happy, cheerful day; all faces wear a smile, old quarrels are forgotten, and every one seems anxious to let ill-will and heart-burnings die with the old year.
A gentleman who wishes to drop an inconvenient acquaintance, has only to omit calling upon his friend's wife and daughters on New-Year's day, without making a suitable apology for the omission of this usual act of courtesy, and the hint is acknowledged by a direct cut the next time the parties meet in public.
It is an especial frolic for all the lads who have just returned from school or college to enjoy their Christmas holidays. Cakes and sweetmeats are showered upon them in abundance, and they feel themselves of vast importance, while paying their compliments to the ladies, and running from house to house, with their brief congratulatory address—"I wish you all a happy New Year!"
It would be a thousand pities if this affectionate, time-honoured, hospitable custom, should be swept away by the march of modern improvement. Some ladies complain that it gives a number of vulgar, underbred men the opportunity of introducing themselves to the notice and company of their daughters. There may be some reasonable truth in this remark; but after all it is but for one day, and the kindly greetings exchanged are more productive of good than evil.
The evening of New-Year's day is generally devoted to dancing parties, when the young especially meet to enjoy themselves.
The Wesleyan Methodists always "pray the old year out and the new year in," as it is termed here, and they could not celebrate its advent in a more rational and improving manner. Their midnight anthem of praise is a sacred and beautiful offering to Him, whose vast existence is not meted out like ours, and measured by days and years.
Large parties given to very young children, which are so common in this country, are very pernicious in the way in which they generally operate upon youthful minds. They foster the passions of vanity and envy, and produce a love of dress and display which is very repulsive in the character of a child. Little girls who are in the constant habit of attending these parties, soon exchange the natural manners and frank simplicity so delightful at their age, for the confidence and flippancy of women long hacked in the ways of the world.
For some time after I settled in the town, I was not myself aware that any evil could exist in a harmless party of children playing together at the house of a mutual friend. But observation has convinced me that I was in error; that these parties operate like a forcing bed upon young plants, with this difference, that they bring to maturity the seeds of evil, instead of those of goodness and virtue, and that a child accustomed to the heated atmosphere of pleasure, is not likely in maturer years to enjoy the pure air and domestic avocations of home.
These juvenile parties appear to do less mischief to boys than to girls. They help to humanize the one, and to make heartless coquets of the other. The boys meet for a down-right romping play with each other; the girls to be caressed and admired, to show off their fine dresses, and to gossip about the dress and appearance of their neighbours.
I know that I shall be called hard-hearted for this assertion; but it is true. I have frequently witnessed what I relate, both at my own house and the houses of others; and those who will take the pains to listen to the conversation of these miniature women, will soon yield a willing assent to my observations, and keep their little ones apart from such scenes, in the pure atmosphere of home. The garden or the green field is the best place for children, who can always derive entertainment and instruction from nature and her beautiful works. Left to their own choice, the gay party would be a bore, far less entertaining than a game of blind-man's buff in the school-room, when lessons were over. It is the vanity of parents that fosters the same spirit in their children.
The careless, disrespectful manner often used in this country by children to their parents, is an evil which in all probability originates in this early introduction of young people into the mysteries of society. They imagine themselves persons of consequence, and that their opinion is quite equal in weight to the experience and superior knowledge of their elders. We cannot imagine a more revolting sight than a young lad presuming to treat his father with disrespect and contempt, and daring presumptuously to contradict him before ignorant idlers like himself.
"You are wrong, Sir; it is not so"—"Mamma, that is not true; I know better," are expressions which I have heard with painful surprise from young people in this country; and the parents have sunk into silence, evidently abashed at the reproof of an insolent child.
These remarks are made with no ill-will, but with a sincere hope that they may prove beneficial to the community at large, and be the means of removing some of the evils which are to be found in our otherwise pleasant and rapidly-improving society.
I know that it would be easier for me to gain the approbation of the Canadian public, by exaggerating the advantages to be derived from a settlement in the colony, by praising all the good qualities of her people, and by throwing a flattering veil over their defects; but this is not my object, and such servile adulation would do them no good, and degrade me in my own eyes. I have written what I consider to be the truth, and as such I hope it may do good, by preparing the minds of emigrants for what they will really find, rather than by holding out fallacious hopes that can never be realized.
In "Roughing it in the Bush," I gave an honest personal statement of facts. I related nothing but what had really happened; and if illustrations were wanting of persons who had suffered as much, and been reduced to the same straits, I could furnish a dozen volumes without having to travel many hundred miles for subjects.
We worked hard and struggled manfully with overwhelming difficulties, yet I have been abused most unjustly by the Canadian papers for revealing some of the mysteries of the Backwoods. Not one word was said against the country in my book, as was falsely asserted. It was written as a warning to well-educated persons not to settle in localities for which they were unfitted by their previous habits and education. In this I hoped to confer a service both on them and Canada; for the prosperous settlement of such persons on cleared farms must prove more beneficial to the colony than their ruin in the bush.
It was likewise very cruelly and falsely asserted, that I had spoken ill of the Irish people, because I described the revolting scene we witnessed at Grosse Isle, the actors in which were principally Irish emigrants of the very lowest class. Had I been able to give the whole details of what we saw on that island, the terms applied to the people who furnished such disgusting pictures would have been echoed by their own countrymen. This was one of those cases in which it was impossible to reveal the whole truth.
The few Irish characters that occur in my narrative have been drawn with an affectionate, not a malignant hand. We had very few Irish settlers round us in the bush, and to them I never owed the least obligation. The contrary of this has been asserted, and I am accused of ingratitude by one editor for benefits I never received, and which I was too proud to ask, always preferring to work with my own hands, rather than to borrow or beg from others. All the kind acts of courtesy I received from the poor Indians this gentleman thought fit to turn over to the Irish, in order to hold me up as a monster of ingratitude to his countrymen.
In the case of Jenny Buchannon and John Monaghan, the only two Irish people with whom I had anything to do, the benefits were surely mutual. Monaghan came to us a runaway apprentice,—not, by-the-bye, the best recommendation for a servant. We received him starving and ragged, paid him good wages, and treated him with great kindness. The boy turned out a grateful and attached creature, which cannot possible confer the opposite character upon us.
Jenny's love and affection will sufficiently prove our ingratitude to her. To the good qualities of these people I have done ample justice. In what, then, does my ingratitude to the Irish people consist? I should feel much obliged to the writer in the London Observer to enlighten me on this head, or those editors of Canadian papers, who, without reading for themselves, servilely copied a falsehood.
It is easy to pervert people's words, and the facts they may represent, to their injury; and what I have said on the subject of education may give a handle to persons who delight in misrepresenting the opinions of others, to accuse me of republican principles; I will, therefore, say a few words on this subject, which I trust will exonerate me from this imputation.
That all men, morally speaking, are equal in the eyes of their Maker, appears to me a self-evident fact, though some may be called by His providence to rule, and others to serve. That the welfare of the most humble should be as dear to the country to which he belongs as the best educated and the most wealthy, seems but reasonable to a reflective mind, who looks upon man as a responsible and immortal creature; but, that perfect equality can exist in a world where the labour of man is required to procure the common necessaries of life—where the industry of one will create wealth, and the sloth of another induce poverty—we cannot believe.
Some master spirit will rule, and the masses will bow down to superior intellect, and the wealth and importance which such minds never fail to acquire. The laws must be enforced, and those to whom the charge of them is committed will naturally exercise authority, and demand respect.
Perfect equality never did exist upon earth. The old republics were more despotic and exclusive in their separation of the different grades than modern monarchies; and in the most enlightened, that of Greece, the plague spot of slavery was found. The giant republic, whose rising greatness throws into shade the once august names of Greece and Rome, suffers this heart-corroding leprosy to cleave to her vitals, and sully her fair fame, making her boasted vaunt of equality a base lie—the scorn of all Christian men.
They thrust the enfranchised African from their public tables—born beneath their own skies, a native of their own soil, a free citizen by their own Declaration of Independence; yet exclaim, in the face of this black injustice—"Our people enjoy equal rights." Alas! for Columbia's sable sons! Where is their equality? On what footing do they stand with their white brethren? What value do they place upon the negro beyond his price in dollars and cents? Yet is he equal in the sight of Him who gave him a rational soul, and afforded him the means of attaining eternal life.
We are advocates for equality of mind—for a commonwealth of intellect; we earnestly hope for it, ardently pray for it, and we feel a confident belief in the possibility of our theory. We look forward to the day when honest labour will be made honourable; when he who serves, and he who commands, will rejoice in this freedom of soul together; when both master and servant will enjoy a reciprocal communion of mind, without lessening the respect due from the one to the other.
But equality of station is a dream—an error which is hourly contradicted by reality. As the world is at present constituted, such a state of things is impossible. The rich and the educated will never look upon the poor and ignorant as their equals; and the voice of the public, that is ever influenced by wealth and power, will bear them out in their decision.
The country is not yet in existence that can present us a better government and wiser institutions than the British. Long may Canada recognise her rule, and rejoice in her sway! Should she ever be so unwise as to relinquish the privileges she enjoys under the sovereignty of the mother country, she may seek protection nearer and fare worse! The sorrows and trials that I experienced during my first eight years' residence in Canada, have been more than counterbalanced by the remaining twelve of comfort and peace. I have long felt the deepest interest in her prosperity and improvement. I no longer regard myself as an alien on her shores, but her daughter by adoption,—the happy mother of Canadian children,—rejoicing in the warmth and hospitality of a Canadian Home!
May the blessing of God rest upon the land! and her people ever prosper under a religious, liberal, and free government!
For London. A National Song.
"For London! for London! how oft has that cry From the blue waves of ocean been wafted on high, When the tar through the grey mist that mantled the tide, The white cliffs of England with rapture descried, And the sight of his country awoke in his heart Emotions no object save home can impart! For London! for London! the home of the free, There's no part in the world, royal London, like thee!
"Old London! what ages have glided away, Since cradled in rushes thy infancy lay! In thy rude huts of timber the proud wings lay furl'd Of a spirit whose power now o'ershadows the world, And the brave chiefs who built and defended those towers, Were the sires of this glorious old city of ours. For London! for London! the home of the free, There's no city on earth, royal London, like thee!
"The Roman, the Saxon, the Norman, the Dane, Have in turn sway'd thy sceptre, thou queen of the main! Their spirits though diverse, uniting made one, Of nations the noblest beneath yon bright sun; With the genius of each, and the courage of all, No foeman dare plant hostile flag on thy wall. For London! for London! the home of the free, There's no city on earth, royal London, like thee!
"Old Thames rolls his waters in pride at thy feet, And wafts to earth's confines thy riches and fleet; Thy temples and towers, like a crown on the wave, Are hail'd with a thrill of delight by the brave, When, returning triumphant from conquests afar, They wreathe round thy altars the trophies of war. For London! for London! the home of the free, There's no part in the world, royal London, like thee!
"Oh, London! when we, who exulting behold Thy splendour and wealth, in the dust shall be cold, May sages, and heroes, and patriots unborn, Thy altars defend, and thy annals adorn! May thy power be supreme on the land of the brave, The feeble to succour, the fallen to save, And the sons and the daughters now cradled by thee, Find no city on earth like the home of the free!"